Jabra Elite 85t Review: Small Yet Mighty

Jabra Elite 85t Review: Small Yet Mighty
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The standard of in-ear Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones has excelled in the past few years and Jabra’s Elite 85t buds are no exception.

In terms of features and sound quality, Jabra’s Elite 85t’s punch high and lands on par with its competitors. I was thoroughly impressed with the noise-cancelling capabilities which rival even the Apple AirPods Pro. Despite their small size, these guys pack a mighty punch.

Jabra Elite 85t

Jabra Elite 85t

What is it?

Jabra's new noise cancelling wireless in-ear headphones




Excellent noise cancelling, compact design, great battery life

No like

Earbud fit often needs adjusting, microphone noise reduction isn't the best

Jabra Elite 85t Design

jabra elite 85 t buds
Image: Lauren Rouse

One of the standout features that I found when using the Elite 85t’s was just how easy it was to set them up.

All you need to do is charge the case, stick them in your ears, pair them with the touch of one button on your Bluetooth capable device and you’re good to go. Being this easy isn’t exactly a unique feature to headphones, but is always a credit to our technology riddled lives.

The design of the Elite 85t’s has been further streamlined from the design of the 75t. The stem is smaller and doesn’t dig too far into the ear but, still fits comfortably. There are three sizes of earbud moulds included with the Elite 85t’s which should cover the majority of ear shapes and sizes.

The physical design of the earbuds themselves is sleek and unobtrusive. Similar to the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, they protrude from the ear more than the AirPod design. But I didn’t experience any irritating contact points. It’s often easy to forget you’re wearing them at all.

The case is small and compact, easily fitting into jeans or jacket pockets. The magnetic charging points in the case also snap each bud in easily and the small indicator lights tell you what battery life is left with 3 different colours.

The headphones have a fast charge capability with 15 minutes of in-case charging for an hour of battery life. Charging the case simply requires a USB-C cable which will give up to 25 hours of battery and 5 hours out of the case. I’ve been using them at the gym all week and still haven’t run out of charge.

When it comes to wireless in-ear headphones, I always have concerns about them falling out or losing them. When placed properly in your ear, the Jabra Elite 85t’s feel very secure. I tried to shake them out with a bit of exercise but they remained firm.

That being said the earbuds can come loose if you position them even slightly incorrectly. I often found myself readjusting them to retain my ideal snug fit.

The fit itself also takes a bit of getting used to and it can become uncomfortable after extended use. With in-ear buds such as these, the fit completely seals your ear canal which aids the noise cancelling. Personally, I found the feeling of having my ears blocked bothersome after a while, so the design may not suit everyone.

The Jabra Elite 85t’s also passed what I’m calling the face mask test. Meaning I could wear a face mask without the loops over my ears getting tangled or the headphones being disrupted.

This seems like a minor detail but it can be hugely annoying to try and remove a facemask when wearing wired or over-ear headphones. And this is of course very relevant for the current state of the world.

In terms of button functionality, the Jabra Elite 85t’s do a lot with a little. Each earbud has a circular button with the left and right side having different functions. There are options such as answering and rejecting calls, volume, pause/play music, skip and restart and the option to cycle through sound modes.

While it’s pretty neat that Jabra offers this level of functionality, learning the cues for all these different functions with only 2 buttons took some time. However, the inbuilt Jabra voice assistant was very helpful to spell out each different mode as you cycled through.

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The app

Much like Sony, Jabra has its own dedicated headphones app. The Jabra Sound+ app is impressive and particularly useful for anyone who likes to customise their sound.

From the app you can choose a sound mode, equalize your music to suit your taste and play a range of ambient sounds. The layout of the app is simple, clean and easy to use.

If you do lose an earbud, Jabra has a solution. Similar to Find My iPhone which Apple uses for its devices, the Jabra Sound+ app offers ‘Find My Jabra’ which will pinpoint the last known location of your headphones before they disconnected.

Jabra Elite 85t Sound

jabra elite 85t
Image: Lauren Rouse

The sound quality is where the Jabra Elite 85t’s excel. The true noise-cancelling capabilities of the headphones were nothing short of fantastic for such small earbuds.

The sound quality of the Elite 85t’s matches up with that of the AirPods Pro. I tried a number of different music options on both headphones and they pumped out the tunes with equal smoothness.

From pop hits by Lady Gaga, to the upbeat synth of The Midnight, or the acoustic songs of Fleetwood Mac, I could hear multiple layers on each track. I was very impressed at the earbuds’ ability to emulate surround sound. Sounds traversed fluidly from one bud to the other and I could clearly hear different instruments in each ear.

I even subjected myself to some heavy metal. While I could hear the songs clearly, the Jabra’s didn’t handle simultaneous loud tracks as well as it did some of the other music I tested.

The Sound+ app offers plenty of customisation for different listening modes. There are options for hearing more bass or more speech and a number of presets in between.

Personally, I was quite happy with the standard mode that the Jabra Elite’s offered, but the option is there for those who like to dig into their sound.

The Elite 85t’s offer three sound modes, which all have distinct differences.

‘Off’ is the sound through the headphones with no noise-cancelling activated, which already blocks out a fair bit of outside noise thanks to the snug earplug design.

‘HearThrough’ filters outside noise through the headphones along with whatever you’re listening to. This can be accessed with one tap of the left earbud, making it easy to switch between conversations or announcements and your music. It also picks up your own voice, so that if you’re on a call you don’t speak too loudly.

With ‘Active Noise Cancelling‘ activated, the Jabra Elite 85t’s truly shone. Given a rare opportunity to travel in 2020, I decided to put the earbuds to the ultimate test: an aeroplane.

When I had active noise cancelling on and music playing, I could hardly hear anything on my flight. The jet engine rumble was a small constant in the background and the music tuned out announcements and those talking around me.

When it came to taking calls, the Jabra Elite 85t’s held up quite well. Those I spoke to while using the earbuds said I came through very clearly, but so did other background noises. Microphone noise reduction is something the Jabra Elite’s could improve on.

On the other hand, when I took a call at a busy intersection, I hardly heard any traffic noise. I tried playing music at the same spot and cars flew past like ghosts. Remember to look for the walk signal when crossing the road because you definitely won’t hear it while wearing the Jabra Elite 85t’s.

Jabra Elite 85t Price

jabra elite 85t
Image: Lauren Rouse

The Jabra Elite 85t’s retail for $299, which is on the higher end of the scale for Bluetooth headphones but not unreasonable, however you can pick them up at Amazon right now for $279 (save $20). Apple’s noise-cancelling AirPod Pros go for $399 as do Bose’s high-end QuietComfort earbuds.

Having used Bose’s wired QuietComfort headphones, I thought nothing could beat Bose at the sound quality, but the Elite 85ts hold up remarkably well. The Jabra’s come in at $50 less than competitors in the same range but sacrifice very little in terms of quality and design.

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Jabra Elite 85t: Should you buy them?

The Jabra Elite 85t has improved from its previous generations. The earbuds work for a wide range of ear sizes and shapes, look sleek and fit comfortably. Getting the positioning just right in your ear is crucial, but when you do you won’t have to worry about them for hours on end. The design is smaller and more compact and makes for some of the smallest earbuds on the market.

But, despite being small, the Elite 85t’s lose nothing on sound quality and the active noise cancellation is the most impressive quality of the headphones overall.

Being able to easily switch between modes on the app or via the tap of the button was useful. But beyond the basic one-tap functions on each earbud, I found the control layout over complicated.

Similarly, the Jabra Elite 85t’s offer a large range of sound customisation options within the partnered app. Personally, I didn’t hear much of a difference between these options, particularly when on a busy street or in a loud room where smaller sound details are easy to miss.

But I appreciate that the options are there and really allow a broader experience of sound.

Though slightly pricey, the Jabra Elite 85t’s offer impressive size, sound and noise-cancelling for in-ear headphones.

If you’re willing to overlook bigger names like Apple and Bose for a better price point, the Jabra’s are a very competitive choice that won’t disappoint.

You can buy the Jabra Elite 85t from Amazon for $279 here.

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At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.